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Need for Speed

Wednesday, 04.06.2011 / 6:06 PM / Features
By Michelle Crechiolo
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Need for Speed
The Penguins’ third line has been a constantly evolving entity over the past few months, with the shuffling of players in and out of the lineup due to injury and trades.

But right now, the trio of Pascal Dupuis, Maxime Talbot and Chris Conner is providing some impressive solidarity in that third-line formation.

“With the different formations of our lineup, it’s changed dramatically over time,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “But right now, for us, that third line is providing a speed factor.”

The three speedsters really began clicking in the Penguins’ 4-2 victory over Florida on April 2, where they controlled play for long periods of time and were a factor all over the ice. They have now combined for six points over the last two games.

“In games like Florida, they were our best line by far in terms of setting the pace for our team and playing the right way, being hard to play against,” Bylsma said.

The trio attributes their success to the fact they know what their strengths are and they play to those advantages.

“I think we’re just using our speed,” Conner said. “We’re playing a simple game, getting pucks in and using our speed to our advantage, grinding it up a little bit too. I think it’s been successful so far. ... Getting pucks behind the defense is a big part of the game. I think it’s a hard play to defend.”

Photo courtesy of Getty Images
All three players are known for their fleet feet rather than aggressive physicality, and that’s what enables them to consistently break past the opposing team’s defense in the first place in order to establish that buzzing offensive-zone presence.

And once they get behind the defense? They are, as Bylsma said, “bothersome.”

“I think the way we forecheck, the way we track down pucks,” Dupuis said of the reason behind the spike in his line’s offensive production. “It’s a matter of outworking the opponent. That’s what we try to do out there.”

But not only are they bothersome in their opponent’s defensive zone, but in the Penguins’ defensive zone as well. Dupuis leads the team with four shorthanded goals while Talbot ranks second among Penguins forwards with an average of 2:53 shorthanded minutes per game on the NHL’s second-ranked penalty kill.

“They’re good at both ends of the rink,” Bylsma said. ‘They’re good with their speed, they’re smart players, they’re reading off each other. They’re very tough to play against and they’re very tough to deal with.”

To get a line with such chemistry so close to the playoffs is crucially important, and they hope to keep it rolling into the postseason.

“It feels great to score some goals. Lately they’ve been going in,” Dupuis said. “So we’ll take those, and it’s a great sign before playoffs when the line is clicking. So we’ll just try to keep going.”
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